Miller Time II

I had to dash out town on Friday — down to Delaware for my brother-in-law’s wedding — before I could get the link to the Hit List up here, but of more interest three days later is the full transcript of the interview I did with Marvin Miller for last week’s feature. Here’s a taste:

Jay Jaffe: Why did you make the announcement now? The Hall of Fame isn’t going to hold another election for about 18 months at least.

Marvin Miller: You’re making it sound like it’s premature, when actually you have to remember that, unlike players who are not eligible until they’ve been retired for five years, executives under their rules are eligible when they turn 65. In other words, back in 1982, I first became eligible and for the next 20 years I was never even on the ballot for the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee. Two decades, 20 years.

Then they abolished that Veterans Committee which had kind of been scandal-ridden in the sense that the only way they could elect anybody was to engage in vote trading. You support my guy and I’ll support your guy, and out the window went merit. So they abolished that committee and that was understandable. Then they created a new one, this time composed of all of the living members of the Hall of Fame. For the first time I was put on a ballot in 2003, and my vote was far short of the 75 percent needed, and that was OK. Then they decided that they wouldn’t hold another one for four years without explaining why.

… One of the reasons I haven’t done this before is that I kept getting talked out of withdrawing my name. People who meant well kept saying, “They’ll come around,” when I knew that was never gonna happen. And I blame myself in a sense for not having withdrawn my name a long time ago, because one thing a trade union leader learns to do is how to count votes in advance. Whenever I took one look at what I was faced with, it was obvious to me it was not gonna happen.

Besides which, as I began to do more research on the Hall, it seemed a lot less desirable a place to be than a lot of people think. I was struck by the fact, for example, that when Reggie Jackson four years ago, with nobody asking him, publicly announced that he had voted for nobody.

My first thought was, look, that’s his privilege, that’s OK. But what he doesn’t seem to understand when he says the Hall should be just for players is that it’s not. The first commissioner, Judge Landis, is in the Hall of Fame, and if he [Landis] had lived long enough, not only would Reggie Jackson not be in the Hall of Fame, he never would have had even one at-bat in the major leagues, because Landis campaigned far and wide among the owners against breaking the color line. As a matter of fact, when one of the owners at the time, Bill Veeck, insisted he was going to sign African-Americans, Landis threatened him with outright suspension. In addition, as you may know, some of the early people inducted in the Hall were members of the Ku Klux Klan.

The whole thing is now up at BP, and it’s free, so do check it out.

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